32 Learning Theories Every Teacher Should Know

by Terry Heick

Learning theory –and the research that goes into it– is a topic seen frequently in universities and teaching programs, then less frequently after once teachers begin practicing in the classroom.

Why this is true is complicated. (If you’re teaching, you may have more pressing concerns than being able to define obscure learning theories which don’t seem to have a place or role in what you’re teaching tomorrow.) I thought it might be useful to have a brief overview of many of the most important learning theories teachers should know in a single graphic, which is why I was excited to find Richard Millwood‘s excellent graphic.

Millwood is Visiting Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, Director of Core Education UK. While the graphic is necessarily brief (and has a few typos), I found it did a great job of bringing together a lot of the most critical –and common– learning theories in one place.

If you get nothing else from a post like this, perhaps the most critical takeaway is that there are dozens of theories that underpin what and how you teach already, and that the better you understand them, the better chance you’ll have to master your current approach and begin to bring new possibilities into your classroom as your ‘teaching brain’ makes room for this kind of thinking.

Some definitions were a bit too brief, so I added language for clarity or depth Let me know in the comments if you have any suggested citations or ideas that could improve the resource. I’ll continue to add resource, links, and citations as relevant.


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